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Category: Nurnberg

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Bayern Munich escape with draw after Nürnberg’s late penalty miss

• Bundesliga title race to go to wire after surprise result• Real Madrid beaten by Rayo Vallecano 1-0Bayern Munich stumbled to a 1-1 draw at relegation-threatened Nürnberg on Sunday to leave the Bundesliga title race wide open with three games left in …

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Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson in Bundesliga goals while Bayern stop rot

Sancho sparks Borussia Dortmund’s 4-0 rout at StuttgartNelson hits two in Hoffenheim win, Bayern sink WolfsburgJadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson were among the goals on Saturday as the exciting English teenagers continued to impress in the Bundesliga.Sanch…

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A warning to Leicester: three other title defences that went horribly wrong

Veterans of post-title slumps at Leeds, Herfolge and Nürnberg explain how their teams lost their way in the season after being champions

Manager when Leeds United pipped Manchester United to the old First Division title in 1992. The following season Leeds finished 17th, two points above the relegation zone.

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Robert Lewandowski leads the teary farewells, as race to the bottom heats up

The Dortmund crowd’s appreciation for Robert Lewandowski was a rousing testament to the fans’ sense of perspective Continue reading…

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Nürnberg fans don’t regret their love, but they would regret relegation

Their club slogan suggests an almost abusive relationship – and watching Nürnberg this season has often felt a lot like that Continue reading…

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Hoeness, honesty and the Werder Bremen penalty that was, then wasn’t | Raphael Honigstein

It’s been a difficult weekend in the Bundesliga: not least for Aaron Hunt after he refused to accept a penalty in his favour. Although his side were leading Nürnberg 2-0 at the time …

The big story in Germany was all about a man falling from grace and ruefully admitting to the authorities that he had sought an unfair advantage. But let’s not dwell on Uli Hoeness’s trial for tax evasion here – there’ll be ample time to digest the rights and wrongs after the judgement comes in on Thursday.

Over in Nürnberg on Saturday night, Aaron Hunt was in a remarkably similar situation to Bayern Munich’s president, whose criminal case went to court on Monday. Similar, that is, if you forget about the €18.5m that Hoeness has, by his own admission, failed to declare in various tax returns over the years, and about the possible jail sentence etc etc. But the basic moral question was not too dissimilar.

Hunt, you see, had successfully tricked the referee, Manuel Gräfe, into awarding a penalty in the 75th minute. He’d done so by performing a well-know Werder trick originally invented by Andreas Herzog (allegedly) called “Einfädeln”: the artful stumbling into an opponents’ leg. Javier Pinola did stick out said leg and the Argentine did warrant much worse than a penalty for his haircut (“not really a haircut, more of a memorial to the hairdresser who died half-way through the job,” as the inimitable Arnd Zeigler put it but Hunt recognised the error of his ways.

“I was looking for the contact but I realised it wasn’t a pen. I struggled a bit with myself but I wanted to tell the truth. I didn’t want to win the game like that”. To Pinola’s relief, Hunt did indeed tell Gräfe that he’d got it wrong and everything was right in the Bundesliga for a brief moment or two.

“This shows us that Financial Fair Play is still written in capital letters,” proclaimed Rhein-Post. (All nouns are capitalised, in German, to be perfectly honest.) But this tale of untypical Germans, as Sir Alex Ferguson would have it, would of course have been even more life-affirming if Bremen hadn’t already been 2-0 up at the time. Would Hunt have done the same if the score had been 0-0? “This question doesn’t arise,” Werder’s coach, Robin Dutt, said unhelpfully. The player was honest enough to mumble something about that being “a difficult comparison”. In capital letters, this spells NO.

Perhaps Gräfe should have still gone ahead and booked Hunt for simulation, as a few observers suggested. Apparently, the admission of guilt in this context does absolve the player from personal punishment but only if he comes clean early enough, naturally. Maybe Hunt was simply afraid that the media would find out what he had done after the event. Funnily enough, there’s an interesting symmetry at play here. For Gräfe in Nürnberg, read judge Rupert Heindl in Munich: Hoeness’s defence needs to convince him that his voluntary admission of tax evasion was indeed voluntary, not the consequence of an imminent magazine article about his Swiss bank account.

Fortunately for all neutrals and honest taxpayers who frequent this blog, the law of rather smaller numbers applies in the Bundesliga. On Sunday, Borussia Dortmund won 1-0 away to SC Freiburg to close the gap to leaders Bayern Munich to just 20 points. With only 10 games to go, Pep Guardiola’s team will feel the Black and Yellows breathing down their neck. Bayern may still be unbeaten this season but that stat could well convey a false sense of security: they can’t afford to slip up more than three times if Dortmund continue on their great run. This one could well go all the way to the wire – to the end of March. “Those who win these kind of games become champions,” Jürgen Klopp said after the hard-fought result at the Mage Solar stadium. (He might have been joking. It was hard to tell.)

The game will be remembered for Sebastian Kehl’s looping shot over the SC keeper Oliver Baumann but Christian Streich saw dark forces at work. “Every two weeks, we are the idiots,” said the Freiburg coach. “At some stage, I’m fed up with watching that. It’s a disaster how we get battered by some people. If they can’t deal with me, they need to tell me. Then we can change that. Then there’s less friction as far those people are concerned, and they won’t treat the team like that anymore”. Streich’s quibble was with the referee, Peter Gagelmann, showing Sokratis Papastathopoulos a yellow card rather than a red one for a foul on Philipp Zulechner. Two weeks earlier, Streich had complained about his side missing out on a penalty in the 4-2 defeat by Augsburg. “Maybe it’s about me?” wondered Streich. He can be a bit emotional on the touchline but if there really is a conspiracy, it’s probably against little, inoffensive Freiburg rather than the highly-strung coach. He is box office, this year’s Freiburg less so.

Talking of hot-heads, Matthias Sammer finally managed to prove all doubters wrong this week. Some of his detractors have often cynically wondered what the Bayern Munich sporting director has been doing all this time but his job profile seems clear enough: Sammer is tasked with picking needless, childish fights when nothing else is going on.

The 46-year-old opined that Bayern’s slender lead in the table – a 6-1 win against a pretty decent Wolfsburg side just about kept them in the race – might be a result of opposing teams not “training as if there was no tomorrow”? This wasn’t meant as a criticism, Sammer insisted, only “a matter of consistency”. Klopp dutifully took the bait. “Matthias Sammer should thank god that Bayern picked him up, I can’t imagine that they would have one point less without him,” said the Dortmund boss. “Highly arrogant,” was the verdict of Dirk Dufner, the Hannover 96 sporting director.

Sammer will be relieved to hear that at least his colleague Fredi Bobic (VfB Stuttgart) agreed with him, to an extent. The Swabian did want Thomas Schneider to take training like there was no tomorrow, which is to say: not one day more. His 15th-placed team had only managed a 2-2 draw with basement club Eintracht Braunschweig after eight defeats in a row. The veteran Huub Stevens was brought in to save Stuttgart’s season.

“It’s one minute to midnight,” said the self-declared “tough dog” from Kerkrade at his first presser on Monday. “But Huub Stevens can’t do it alone, Fredi Bobic can’t do it alone, the president can’t do it alone and players can’t do it alone either. All of us, the cleaning woman and the president, have to pull together.” Yes, it’s one of those dirty, rather hopeless jobs that just cries out for Third Person Football Man™.

Results: Hamburg – Frankfurt 1-1, Wolfsburg – Bayern 1-6, Hannover – Leverkusen 1-1, Stuttgart – Braunschweig 2-2, Gladbach – Augsburg 1-2, Nürnberg – Bremen 0-2, Freiburg – Dortmund 0-1, Mainz – Hertha 1-1.

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Bayern Munich 5-0 Eintracht Frankfurt | Bundesliga match report

Bayern Munich restored their 13-point lead at the head of the Bundesliga as they cruised to a 5-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday.

Mario Mandzukic was involved in Bayern’s two first-half goals, heading on for Mario Götze to drive into the left corner for the opener after 11 minutes and then making a nuisance of himself in the box before Franck Ribéry fired in the second just before half-time.

Arjen Robben and Dante scored in quick succession midway through the second half and Mandzukic snatched the fifth goal in the 88th minute as Bayern stretched an unbeaten record that now stands at 44 Bundesliga games.

Bayer Leverkusen, in second place despite already losing five games this season, had briefly made up ground on Bayern with victory over Stuttgart on Saturday.

Earlier on Sunday Nürnberg made it two wins out of two in 2014 with a 3-1 victory at Hertha Berlin.

Josip Drmic scored twice for the Bavarians, taking him to 10 goals for the season and four in two games, but the hosts were left fuming by a decision which denied them an equaliser late on.

Adrián Ramos gave Hertha the lead before Markus Feulner levelled and Drmic put the visitors in front but the real drama was reserved for the final few minutes when first Hertha were awarded a penalty only to see the referee change his mind and then give the Bavarians a penalty, from which Drmic wrapped up the win.

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Wolfsburg aim to prove that Wolves can be Easter Bunnies too | Raphael Honigstein

Wolfsburg find themselves in the unfamiliar heights of fifth and their latest win, against Stuttgart, was a tale of two Diegos

In these festive times, a cold, hard word of caution cannot go amiss. “Santa Claus rarely turns out to be an Easter Bunny,” Uli Hoeness memorably observed seven years ago. Hoeness was proven right that season of course, albeit in a slightly different way than he had anticipated. Werder Bremen, league leaders at the winter break in December 2006 “with a laughable three point gap” (Hoeness), were indeed reeled in by spring. But the bunnies in question turned out to be very much Swabian in origin, not Munich’s finest. As Stuttgart won the Meisterschaft, Bayern had to contend with the ignominy of the Uefa Cup.

This episode made for a fine parable about hubris and entitlement but it also serves as a sobering reminder that schadenfreude tends to come back to bite you. Far from marking the beginning of the end, the Reds’ darkest hour in a decade only turbo-charged their re-emergence as a European superpower as they embarked on a defiant, no-holds-barred program of investment that has since threatened to crush all domestic competition.

Wolfsburg players usually have problems of a very different kind around this time of year. Their Santa Claus, apart from not being an Easter Bunny, hardly ever shows up. Since the Volkwagen-owned club won the league in 2009, the tone at their end of year parties has mostly resembled that of an angry half-time talk by Knecht Ruprecht, with various club bosses waggling their index fingers and vaguely threatening sanctions if the performances don’t improve. Four years ago, the club CEO Jürgen Marbach wanted to scrap the Christmas party altogether after a 3-1 home defeat by Dortmund. Wolfsburg finished the calendar year in eighth place that season. They were 13th in 2010, 12th in 2011 and 15th in 2012.

‘Tis is the Bundesliga season to be merry, however. After the 3-1 home win against Stuttgart, Wolves are in fifth spot. A win against fourth-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach next week and they could see in 2014 level on points with two sides in the Champions League spots. Dortmund are within striking range as well, after dropping more points in the 2-2 draw at Hoffenheim.

So the club rolled out the green carpet outside the imaginatively titled “Club 45” and “Halle 09” multi-purpose rooms inside the Volkswagen-Arena on Sunday night and allowed themselves a rare evening of happiness. “A Christmas party is a moment of reflection, and when you’ve won the day before, the party mood is that much greater,” said Volkswagen’s CEO, Martin Winterkorn. “Everyone’s allowed to dream,” added Wolfsburg’s sporting director, Klaus Allofs.

In truth, the result had been more convincing than the actual performance. Their Manager, Dieter Hecking – crowned as “HecKING” by Bild – had Diego to thank for the three points. That’s Diego Benaglio, the Swiss keeper. “You have to mention him today,” said Hecking, after two fine saves from the 30-year-old kept out Timo Werner and Christian Gentner before Ivan Perisic sealed the deal with Wolves’ third goal. “The development points to the right direction,” said Benaglio. “We are coming together as a team more and more.”

The other Diego was also on the score-sheet. The Brazilian playmaker grabbed the second goal with a deflected free-kick, but his biggest moment came off the pitch. He barely acknowledged Hecking after coming off for Perisic on 72 minutes, in a show of petulance that angered Allofs. “I can’t understand that,” he said, “everybody is a 23rd of the team here. Not more and no less.” For Diego, the numbers would have looked different.

Ever since Edin Dzeko headed to Manchester City, the 28-year-old has been the sole squad member with true star quality. Against Stuttgart, Hecking played him wide on the left to accommodate Maximilian Arnold, the 19-year-old shooting star of the season. This felt like more than a mere tactical move, it was also quite symbolic: Diego has become less central to Wolfsburg’s fortunes. He will be out of contract in the summer and so far the club have made little attempt to renew the deal: he’s rumoured to be on a colossal €8m a season. “It’s not easy [to be in the dark],” said Diego, “but it’s part of the job. I have to deal with it professionally and help the team.” Hecking took a benign view of the player’s frustrations. “Good players rarely want to be subbed, I thought it was a normal exit,” said the 49-year-old. “He had hardly trained last week.”

That mini-skirmish aside, things could not have been going better since their neighbours Braunschweig beat them in the derby a couple of months ago. Wolfsburg bounced back with six wins in eight to occupy that section of the table where you’d expect bigger beasts like Schalke to roam. It’s a pretty astounding turnaround considering Felix Magath left them in the relegation zone and with a squad of nearly 40 players less than 18 months ago.

“You can’t mention us in the same breath as the current Champions League participants,” Allofs warned; “We’re not there yet,” said Hecking. But Wolves are already better and more consistent than Schalke, and a good run from Dortmund in the Champions League could well see them drop more domestic points in the new year. Gladbach have a more complete set-up and possibly a smarter coach but there isn’t much depth.

Even if they were to miss out on top four, Wolfsburg’s return to relative prominence will irk plenty of traditionalists. They’d prefer the more established, member-controlled clubs to scoop up Uefa’s millions. That’s the least of their worries, though. Simply to matter again in this league is one of the nicest Christmas presents Santa could have given them.

Talking points

• Some football clichés prove harder to kill than a multi-headed zombie hydra in Predator armour. “Der Club ist ein Depp,” is one of them. The club in question is Nürnberg and Depp translates as idiot. (This, you’ll find, also explains German schoolboy sniggers whenever a certain Hollywood actor is mentioned.) Said statement is less of an insult and more of a philosophical acceptance of an immutable, eternal fact of life in Franconia, their version of Murphy’s law: whatever can possibly go wrong, will go wrong (it’s mostly FCN supporters who use this expression).

On Saturday, Gertjan Verbeek’s men were 3-1 up away to Hannover with three minutes to go and on course for their first win of the season. And then it happened. First, the defender Marcelo hit is own post with a mis-hit clearance. From the post, the ball bounced back, Hannover went on a counter-attack and Mame Diouf scored from a blatantly offside position to make the score 3-2. The rest is easy to imagine. Deep in injury-time, Diouf pounced again: 3-3. “You’re 3-1 up and then there’s such a shit thing from the referee, it’s unbelievable,” cursed the goalkeeper Raphael Schäfer. All his team-mates felt cheated, too. Next week, there’s a final chance to avoid a historic achievement: if they don’t beat Schalke, they will have gone through the entire first half of the season without a win. The headlines are pre-prepared.

• Bayern jetted off to the Club World Cup in Morocco straight after dispatching Hamburg with a half-hearted 3-1 win. Dortmund found it much harder going at Hoffenheim. Jürgen Klopp saw his team come back from 2-0 down to escape with a point but was mightily miffed. “There was so much football and you want to do [a] crap story. What a crappy life that must be,” he scoffed at a reporter who had enquired whether the manager had feared for the linesman after a collision with Marco Reus. The 46-year-old badly needs a winter break, along with the rest of his team.

• Jens Keller won his second “final” in row. But beating Freiburg 2-0 (after scraping past Basel with the help of the Italian officials) has done little for his job prospects at Schalke. On Sunday night, Ruhr Nachrichten reported that defensive mastermind and all-round super-charming guy Thomas Schaaf is poised to take over in the winter break. This will be most welcome news, especially for Cristiano Ronaldo. Real Madrid face Schalke in the last 16.

Results: Hertha BSC 3-2 Werder Bremen, FC Bayern 3-1 HSV, Hannover 96 3-3 1. FC Nürnberg, FC Augsburg 4-1 Eintracht Braunschweig, VfL Wolfsburg 3-1 VfB Stuttgart, Mainz 05 0-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach, TSG Hoffenheim 2-2 Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 2-0 SC Freiburg, Bayer Leverkusen 0-1 Eintracht Frankfurt.

• Latest Bundesliga table

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Bundesliga roundup: Bayern Munich move 10 points clear with easy win

• Bayern Munich beat 10-man Freiburg 2-0• Bayer Leverkusen second after win over Werder BremenBayern Munich went 10 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga thanks to a routine 2-0 win over 10-man Freiburg.The runaway leaders were always in contro…